Hi Phil – so how would you summarise your season so far?
One phrase springs to mind, injury hit! Being without quality players such as Tshimanga, Rowe, Gunning, Clarke, Carline, Croll, Denton, Asante, Hollis and Oyeleke for at least three months each, many much longer, all of them nailed on matchday squad men, has been the major factor in the season. No team at this level could cope with that list of missing players. With the bulk of those players, the team would be flying, without them, results have been mixed nut we’re still in contention and some are on the mend, so who knows what from now on.
How’s the team’s recent form been?
Disappointing but not surprising given the absentees. Last Saturday at Bromley was dreadful, no-one turned up, a big improvement for the Bank Holiday game at home to Stockport, but still a defeat. What looked a likely top three slot only a few weeks ago has turned into limping towards the line, with four points still needed to guarantee the play-offs.
What’s been the highlights of your season?
Watching Kabongo Tshimanga score for fun. His awareness in the box is special and he was set to get to well above 30 goals until his leg was broken in Paul Cook’s first match in charge at Weymouth. An outside chance he may be back for the play-offs, if he is the team’s chances will be much improved. His loss has been the main reason for our recent travails.
Who are your key players and why?
Manny Oyeleke is the midfield enforcer, does the simple stuff really well. Skipper Gavin Gunning’s leadership, even though he’s still not fully fit, is immense whilst left wing back Alex Whittle, who hopefully will be back after a knock picked up at Bromley, has had a terrific season both defending and attacking, whilst right wing back Jeff King is the team’s main assistor. If Danny Rowe is fit to play, watch his right foot hammer.
Are you confident the team can still win promotion?
I’m an optimist and the answer to the ‘can we still do it’ is of course yes. But as Torquay know, there’s a lottery element to the play-offs. If we can get Tshimanga and Rowe on the park in the season’s extension, anything can happen. Clearly whether it’s Stockport or Wrexham that miss out, they will be the opposition to fear, but in a one-off, I feel we can beat anyone on the day.
Will many supporters make the trip down?
Plenty of weekenders have booked, so I feel the following will be at least 400, the away support this season has been superb.
What’s your thoughts on Paul Cook’s reign so far?
Cook’s a terrific manager but his luck has been non-existent on the injury front. He tried to move towards his favoured 4-2-3-1 from 3-5-2 but within the inherited fit squad, there were clear vulnerabilities, so it’s back to a back three. There have been some glimpses of great football, but the squad seems to have run out of steam to play his high-line, press and pass style, so it’s been tough on the park and from the stands. But if no promotion this term, get your money on next season.
What tactics does the manager like to use and what’s your likely line-up?
Depending on whether key players are deemed fit enough to start, it’ll be either a 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1. I’d go for the former assuming Danny Rowe and Akwasi Asante fit enough to start, and hopefully Akwasi Asante will too. Loach; Williams, Gunning, Grimes; King, Oyeleke, Weston, Khan, Whittle; Rowe, Asante.
Which opposition teams and players have impressed you most?
Grimsby were superb when they won 4-1 on our patch, the best team performance we’ve seen from an opponent. On Monday, Stockport’s Paddy Madden was fantastic, but of all the players I covet in the NL, Lemonheigh-Evans is at the top of the list! Josh Kelly of Maidenhead gave us a roasting at York Road and I’d jump at the chance to sign him.
And finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?
Torquay will be relaxed, no pressure, last home game, we need a minimum of a draw to keep things in our own hands. Both sides on a less than ideal run, but I think Chesterfield’s desire will be enough to get us over the line for a narrow 1-0 win.